On Friday Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to California where she spoke about wildland fires and the fact that federal firefighters are “underpaid given the nature and value of their work.”
Her 12-minute speech was made at Del Rosa fire station on the San Bernardino National Forest as she stood in front of US Forest Service fire apparatus, Engine 330 and a Del Rosa Interagency Hotshot crew buggy.
“On behalf of the President and myself I want to thank all the men and women who serve in such difficult times but always with such grace. Thank you Sarah and thank you Chief,” the Vice President said as she began her remarks. Sarah Hudson, a firefighter, introduced the VP. More about that below.
Later the Vice President mentioned the pay of federal wildland firefighters.
“There will be $5 billion, and more actually,” she said, “for wildfire preparedness and resilience, and it will include, and this requires its own conversation, a pay raise for our federal firefighters. And I invite everyone to become familiar with the history of this issue and for how long they have been underpaid given the nature and value of their work, and so we are very, very excited to acknowledge their work not only in words but with the pay that recognizes the value of the skill and the dignity of the work that they perform…And I am very proud of the folks who in particular are on the ground doing this work every day. As I have said before I will say again, you inspire us all.”
The Vice President spoke for 12 minutes about wildland fire and reducing their impact, and never mentioned raking the forest.
She also covered the resilience of communities threatened by fire.
“We are talking with home owners and reaching out to communities,” she said, “to figure out how we can support them to create a community that is less likely to be so significantly damaged if a fire should hit.”
The Home Ignition Zone should be an extremely high priority in preventing structures from burning as a wildfire approaches.
“Surprisingly, research has shown that home ignitions during extreme wildfires result from conditions local to a home,” wrote retired US Forest Service Research scientist Jack Cohen in a 2020 article on Wildfire Today. “A home’s ignition vulnerabilities in relation to nearby burning materials within 100 feet principally determine home ignitions. This area of a home and its immediate surroundings is called the home ignition zone (HIZ). Typically, lofted burning embers initiate ignitions within the HIZ – to homes directly and nearby flammables leading to homes.”
Other speakers at the event included Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Chief of the Forest Service Randy Moore.
In addition to the dignitaries peaking at the event, Sarah Hudson, a senior firefighter on the Heaps Peak helitack crew on the San Bernardino National Forest made remarks and then introduced the Vice President. This may be the first time a wildland firefighter has performed such a feat. In her spare time Ms. Hudson serves in the California National Guard as a senior airman with the 163rd Attack Wing where she performs maintenance on ground support equipment for remotely piloted aircraft such as the MQ-9 Reaper. On several occasions a National Guard Reaper or similar National Guard drone have assisted firefighters by gathering real time imagery over ongoing wildfires in California.
The entire 35-minute event is covered in the video below.